Driven by their hunger, the wolves devoured without hesitation. Some were born here, others came from afar. This winter they were relentless. They crept into pens and farmyards and tore apart dogs and people alike. Their bloodthirsty shadows glided across the frozen snow.
The wolves’ howling awoke the village in the mountain gorge and startled the peaceable sheep’s and philosophical goats’ sleep. The loudly barking dogs cautiously tugged at their chains, there was fear in their eyes. What if the chain broke? What if they turned out to be the pursuers?
All the people in the village were old and sick. Abandoned or just forgotten. They had lived for years with no hope for help. There was no phone and no doctor in the village. Their faith lay in their own endurance. Locked behind barred doors, armed with staffs, pitchforks, axes – some alone, some in pairs – with their teeth chattering in the cold.
Once again, the deep snow had cut them off from the world. A world they did not care about. Somewhere there, their children had become city dwellers, living in huge blocks of concrete. Somewhere there, where nobody helps anybody. In the summer time, there were occasional visits from their grandchildren. They came for the clean air, to gather some wild thyme, to pick some raspberries and mushrooms, and to put them in their baskets.
This place was beautiful and damp. Its residents were clinging to their primitive homes. Only misguided or tired hunters passed by here from time to to time. To ask for a drop of water for the path ahead. Water in this region was scarce.
There was a little spring, which never froze in the winter. In the summer, despite all the toads leaping around it, its flickering waters were crystal clear. All living creatures gathered here for a drink. And in the distant past, the call of the spring had brought the people together. The deer were gathering around it, more often than ever. They were looking for protection. They felt that their chances for mercy at the hands of fate were waning.
Their hunger was hellish and biblical. The old people had spotted the deer before, and from time to time they tossed them crusts of bread or other meager remains from their humble meals. The people were worrying even about themselves. Their hearts shriveled in pain, as they saw that, because of their hope in them, the deer would perish. They had always come one by one, but never as many as now. They were a herd.
The night fell quickly, tired and bitter. The eyes of the wolves burned in the darkness. The herd squeezed together and stiffened with horror. Close to each other, so close to each other. The neck of each lay on the back of the one in front it – in a tangle of limbs. In the middle – the young ones. On the outside – the old and the sick. Pressing together with the others with their last ounce of strength. And on the front line, with knees deep in the snow, stood the bucks with sharp and deadly antlers.
The beasts swiftly encircled them. The sound of crushed bones and tearing hides filled the air. The ones thrown on the ground were more than they could eat. Their predator’s blood was boiling inside them and they could not stop killing. Life itself was driving them mad, into a wild frenzy of hatred. A buck tore up two young and frivolous wolves.
The pack finally split up the herd. Everyone was trying to save themselves. The thin crust covering the deep snow turned into a trap for the victims. They disappeared one by one, overrun by the shadows. Their agonizing wheezing and last breaths resounded in the cold human rooms. This gory scene could not be observed anymore. This death could not be endured anymore.
Unexpectedly for the wolves, a gate creaked open. Then another one, and another one. The scattered, fleeing deer rushed into the yards.
An old woman without a yard or a fence opened her door and bravely stood at the entrance. A little fawn burst inside the house. Its heart was beating like a bell. The old woman could hear it as the fawn pressed close to her hip. They barred the door firmly. And blocked it with the trunk, in which the old lady once kept her wedding gown.
Eventually the dawn would come.